Director Kevin Smith (left) and co-writer Andy McElfresh on the set of the film Killroy Was Here in 2017.

Ringling College of Art and Design students, donors, faculty and alumni packed into a campus auditorium on Monday evening to see, for the first time, the trailer for filmmaker Kevin Smith's new horror movie, Killroy Was Here, which was partially filmed in Sarasota in 2017 and 2018. None were as excited as the students and graduates who worked on the film with Smith, as part of a partnership with Semkhor Productions.

Kevin Smith at Ringling College of Art and Design on Monday.

Image: Jessika Ward

“I haven’t seen anything from the film, besides what I saw on set," said Zifeng Zhuo, a Ringling College graduate who worked on the film. "It will be great to see what he chose and see where his vision went. It has been two and a half years since I worked on the film, so it’s probably gone through a lot of changes in post-production.”

Zhuo wasn’t just eager to see the trailer. She was also looking forward to seeing Smith again in person. “I’m hoping he remembers us,” she said. “He’s such a sweet person. He was so kind. He would treat us to burgers and ice cream on set. He wanted to make sure we were all doing the best that we could do and making sure that we were having fun on set, as well.”

The trailer for the film was plenty bloody, but also included some of the humor Smith has been known for throughout his career. The film is expected to be released this fall, and the trailer will be unveiled online soon.

On Monday, a section of the auditorium was reserved for students who worked on the film. As Smith discussed the importance of people making money through their creativity, he made eye contact with one of the students, and stopped, mid-sentence, to speak to them as a group.

Smith, a film school dropout, told the students to make friends while they are in college. He credited his success in filmmaking to the friendships he made while in school, moreso than the knowledge he gained from lectures or textbooks. He also encouraged the students to use their art and films to say something meaningful, telling them that his films are the way he speaks to the world.

Students were tuned in to Smith’s every word, listening for pearls of wisdom that could motivate and guide them as they navigate the film industry. When Smith was 23 years old—close to the same age as many of the students sitting in the auditorium on Monday—he created the classic comedy Clerks.

“Nobody works harder than someone who wants to do it for a living," said Smith. "When you’re working with kids and non-pros, you get passion. I’m in my environment when I’m around kids who want to make a movie. I was once that kid.”

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